A commission established by the Portuguese parliament has approved plans to recognize victims of the Inquisition, with the establishment of a new memorial day on March 31st, the anniversary of the termination of the Inquisition in 1821.
Reconectar, a movement to reconnect so-called ‘Lost Jews’ - the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities forcibly converted to Catholicism - with the Jewish world, welcomed the decision by Portugal’s Commission for Culture, Communication, Youth and Sports to approve the creation of a Memorial Day for the Victims of the Inquisition.
“This is an extremely important step by the Portuguese Parliament and one that clearly demonstrates the Portuguese authorities’ intention to look critically at its past and show the Jewish world that it is seeking atonement for this reign of terror against our people,” Ashley Perry (Perez), the President of Reconectar and the Director of the Knesset Caucus for the Reconnection with the Descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Communities, said.
“We see this, along with the citizenship law and the general outreach to Jewish communities around the world, led by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, as positive moves to ensure a strengthened relationship between the Portuguese and Jewish people based on our common history, culture and ancestry.”
“The Inquisition was one of the most evil regimes that negatively affected our people in a way perhaps like no other, because it was during this period of time that our people were disconnected, whose reversal, in some small way, is only being seen now in the 21st century.”
Earlier this year, an Israeli government report suggested that some 95 million people worldwide have Jewish ancestry, including tens of millions of descendants of ‘Anusim’ (Hebrew for “Coerced Ones”), sometimes referred to as Marranos – Jews from the Iberian Peninsula who were forced to convert to Catholicism.
Others have estimated the number of people descended from Anusim at between 100 to 200 million.
Reconectar has offered assistance to people across North and Latin America, Europe and elsewhere who have expressed interest in connecting with their Jewish ancestry.
“The State of Israel and the Jewish world should follow the Portuguese lead and institute a day of commemoration for the victims of The Inquisition,” Perry said. “Far too little is known about this dark period in our history and it is vital that it is better understood so that we can relate better to the descendants of its victims and extend to them a familial embrace should they seek a reconnection with our people, homeland and traditions.”